Sunday 28 December 2014

'Baron of Ballsbridge' Dunne to be pursued for bankruptcy

Published 13/02/2013 | 04:00

Sean Dunne and wife Gayle Killilea

ULSTER BANK is moving to bankrupt bust developer Sean Dunne. It was given permission by the High Court to serve papers on the developer in the US, where he now spends much of his time.

The move will come as a devastating blow for the one-time 'Baron of Ballsbridge'.

Ulster Bank was part of a syndicate of lenders who financed Mr Dunne's failed plans for a Knightsbridge-style development in Ballsbridge, Dublin.

Mr Dunne borrowed heavily to buy three hotels on a prime seven-acre site in the up-market suburb for €379m in 2005.

But his plans to redevelop the site were met with local opposition and ultimately shot down by planners.

Ulster Bank secured a €164m judgment last year and is now moving to bankrupt Mr Dunne after he failed to repay his loans.

In the High Court, Bernard Dunleavy BL, for Ulster Bank, was given leave to serve bankruptcy proceedings on Mr Dunne outside the jurisdiction.

The move was taken after the bank had difficulty serving the papers in Ireland.

Although Mr Dunne is now likely to be served in Connecticut, where he and his wife Gayle Killilea have a home, it is understood that the bank intends to bankrupt him in Ireland, rather than in the US.

Mr Dunleavy said that while Mr Dunne was living in Greenwich, Connecticut, he was still a citizen of Ireland, carried on business here, acted as a landlord here and his family continued to reside here.

The barrister added that Mr Dunne's residency in the US was only based on a temporary business visa.

He indicated that the bank would move to serve the papers on Mr Dunne in the coming days, when he and his wife are due in court in Stamford, Connecticut.

Mr Dunne was unavailable for comment last night.

The developer also owes NAMA €185m. It secured a judgment for the repayment of his property loans last year.

Mr Dunne and his wife have lived outside Ireland for prolonged periods in recent years – first in Switzerland and later in the millionaires' enclave of Greenwich, Connecticut.

As creditors circled around her husband, former newspaper gossip columnist Ms Killilea has sought to reinvent herself as a property developer.

Mansion

However, her involvement in four property deals in Switzerland and the US gave rise to allegations from NAMA that her investments had been secretly bankrolled by her husband.

It has alleged that this allowed the Dunnes to make millions by buying, renovating and selling high-end properties while Mr Dunne's creditors went unpaid.

The allegations have been disputed by the Dunnes. Mr Dunne has denied any involvement in the property deals.

They are due to seek an order from a US judge this Friday, halting a lawsuit being taken by NAMA against them there.

Despite Mr Dunne's money worries, the couple have been renting a $20,000 (€15,300)-a-month luxury home at Indian Field Road in Greenwich.

The 16-room waterfront mansion belongs to the Russian-born billionaire Alexander Knaster and is valued at $8m (€5.9m). It boasts six bedrooms, a two-storey atrium, a glass floor feature, one formal dining room, a "family theatre room", an outdoor swimming pool, hot tub, pool house and outdoor dining area.

NAMA has alleged in court documents that the Dunnes have "continued to enjoy a lavish lifestyle" since relocating from Ireland.

Irish Independent

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